Fri | Feb 26, 2021

Letter of the Day | Epidemic of gun violence hurting us all

Published:Friday | February 19, 2021 | 12:07 AM

THE EDITOR, Madam:

It is not lost on me that with 1,301 recorded killings in 2020, InSight Crime’s 2020 Homicide Round-Up revealed that Jamaica now has the highest homicide rate in the Caribbean and Latin America, at 46.5 per 100,000 people.

Within the last two months, I have tragically lost two family members to preventable gun violence in Jamaica. The fatalities continue to rise with the continuing killing of citizens, including women.

The country and the world saw in real time and on Facebook Live, the merciless killing of Andrea Lowe-Garwood as she worshipped with church members at Agape Christian Fellowship Church in Falmouth, Trelawny.

These wanton and boldface acts of violence are a clear indication of a country that has not only lost its moral compass, but one that has, in profound ways, lost its value and respect for human life.

I have yet to see or to read a comprehensive strategy by government that will systemically address this public health issue – structural poverty, classism, colourism and hopelessness, particularly among youth in urban, suburban and deep rural areas of the country.

Communities and families need support. The youth need jobs – meaningful employment that will put them on a trajectory toward success.

I am particularly concerned for the children and the trauma imposed on them from COVID-19, in addition to the ongoing gun violence that they witness every day.

Gun violence and high homicide rates should not be accepted as normal in our communities. High-powered weapons and handguns should not be accessible in our communities and in the hands of people who do not respect life. These weapons should only be in the hands of firearm licence-holders and law-enforcement officials.

Gun violence is our country’s curse that must be broken. When I lost my own cousin a couple weeks ago in Hartfield, Manchester, a cousin in Eleven Miles Bull Bay and a family friend in McGregor Gully, Kingston, I began counting the number of people I personally have known and loved and lost to gun violence. I counted 39 people who I knew who were shot and killed by this pandemic of homicides.

The gun violence epidemic is a public health issue and it must be addressed with urgency.

MARCIA RANGLIN-VASSELL

Representative,

House District 5 (Democrat)

Providence, Rhode Island